Linda Hobson, still wearing her church clothes, wades through water...

Linda Hobson, still wearing her church clothes, wades through water outside her home on Horton Avenue in Riverhead, Sunday. The street is still flooded from last week's rains. (April 4, 2010) Credit: Joe Epstein

As the floodwaters slowly drained from Horton Avenue in Riverhead, residents came back Sunday to see what - if anything - could be salvaged.

Linda Hobson, an evacuee and social worker who helped coordinate relief efforts, went back to her house to retrieve waterlogged bed linens. "We'll be washing them this evening at the Laundromat," she said.

A disaster fund set up by her church, First Baptist Church of Riverhead, provided money and laundry soap.

Town and county workers have been working since Tuesday to pump out the murky water that last week engulfed a dozen houses in this low-lying neighborhood. About 20 evacuated residents have been staying at motels or with relatives nearby.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials plan to visit the neighborhood this morning to inspect the damage, according to Rep. Tim Bishop, (D-Southampton), and Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy.

"We'll walk through and they'll see firsthand how devastating all of this was," Levy said.

Sunday, watermarks on homes and mailbox posts along Horton Avenue were evidence the water had fallen several feet. But a brown lake still covered a long swath of street, lapping at stoops and swamping lawns.

Outside Hobson's house, two empty fuel tanks lay on their sides. They weren't hers, she said - they floated down the street last week.

Inside, floodwaters had strewn belongings in a wet, muddy tangle throughout the house that her parents bought nearly 50 years ago. Hobson stood in her living room in rubber boots, dressed for church in an outfit she retrieved the previous night. Her television lay toppled on the rug amid books and knickknacks.

"We don't have flood insurance here," Hobson said.

She and her neighbors hope the government can provide some relief. Some have owned their houses for decades. And they're concerned about where they will go if their homes are condemned. "Our house is all paid off," said Marie Trent, who lives next door to Hobson.

She and her husband, Porter Trent, said they weren't sure if it was safe to return. Their ground floor remained dry but the basement was filled with foul water. They're staying with their daughter for now and waiting to hear whether the house is habitable.

"That's the most depressing part," Trent said. "You don't know what's going to happen."

Last week's storm, which also caused flooding in Ronkonkoma and southwestern Nassau, has complicated ongoing efforts to repair damage from nor'easters in November and March, said Bishop political aide Jon Schneider.

He said Bishop wants to set up a town-hall meeting this week between East End residents and federal and state emergency management officials to update the public on relief efforts and answer questions about claims. Schneider said more planning was needed to reduce damage from future storms - specifically, "what can we do in terms of disaster mitigation so that every time we get a couple of inches of rain we don't have millions of dollars of damage?"

It's a question much on Hobson's mind as well. She drew comfort from an Easter service at First Baptist, where the pastor prayed for those who lost homes and possessions.

"Part of my heart is broken and sad because of my house," she said. "But the other part says you have to fight for what you believe in. . . . We need to come to a resolution about how to deal with this."

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